A Man of the Enlightenment
William was dogged by ill-health, referenced by his seated position in the portrait. His wheelchair can still be seen at the Hall, and the state of his health during the Grand Tour is described in detail in Winifred’s journal (now in Beverley Treasure House).
William was childless, only marrying late in life following the death of his sister; it may have been this childless state that made him so eager to obtain a quality portrait to accompany those of his predecessors, the Viscounts of Dunbar.
A man of the Enlightenment, William described himself as a collector, employing the best artists to embellish his place with magnificence, taste and propriety. He described himself as “a bit of a Vertu” - a gentleman (vertuosi) distinguished from the hoi polloi by his tasteful collecting and love of learning for its own sake.
William's trip across the Continent was characterised not only by his quest for a remedy to his illnesses, but also by a desire to meet with some of the foremost minds of the Enlightenment period, such as Genevan philosopher, writer and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
By establishing both his line of descent and his credentials as a connoisseur, William was securing his status amongst the British aristocracy.